Even mealtimes at ULI’s Fall Meeting pack in cutting edge information and opportunities for networking. At Wednesday’s infrastructure networking lunch, Gregory Hummel, Partner at Bryan Cave, LLP and co-chair of ULI Chicago’s Infrastructure Committee unveiled ULI Chicago’s Infrastructure Game Changers.

ULI Chicago’s Infrastructure Committee began looking for ways to improve infrastructure decision-making in 2008. The 48-member committee started with two premises: that the region should invest in infrastructure, not spend on it, and that implementation offered fresh opportunities for private sector involvement.

The committee came up with a process that identifies infrastructure “game changers.” The process inventories projects recommended in existing plans, evaluates the projects according to five criteria – economic competitiveness, opportunity, environmental sustainability, support, and funding and finance, and makes the tie to land use. The committee tested the process in two areas. ULI Chicago identified 13 “game changers” in the Lakeshore Industrial Heritage Corridor, a bi-state region along Lake Michigan with a long history of industrial contraction. For Chicago’s suburbs, the committee identified nine regionally significant infrastructure projects from airport expansions to high speed rail terminals to expanded water service areas.

The Infrastructure Game Changers, however, is not just analysis; outreach is also of critical importance. Along the way, committee members met with infrastructure providers, public officials and other stakeholders.

ULI Chicago’s Infrastructure Committee is currently wrapping up these first Infrastructure Game Changers projects, with final reports and supporting web pages scheduled for late 2010. Outreach will continue, including discussions of next steps.

As Hummel concluded, ULI has long had a reputation as a think tank for real estate and land use. With efforts like the Curtis Project in Chicago, ULI is exploring new territory: being a “Think-Do Tank.”

ULI Chicago’s Curtis Infrastructure Initiative is part of the ULI/Curtis Regional Infrastructure Project, supported by ULI trustee James Curtis.